Past Missions

The history of the spread of the RPCNA could take up hundreds of pages, so a “brief” history of churches past.

We thank Dean Smith for the use of his paper presented at the 2000 International Conference.

RPCNA Home Missions: Past, Present, and Future

July 30, 2000

1700 – 1800s Immigration
The beginning of the Reformed Presbyterian Church of North America began with the immigration of people from Scotland. Even into the early 20th century, immigration was a primary means of growth. The spread of the church across the continent was often the result of migration.

The 1888 Minutes of the Reformed Presbyterian Synod indicate that some considered the primary work of the denomination was “to save the scattered members of our church, to organize them into congregations in new fields, and to retain and edify those we already have” (p 254).

1900s – A. Migration
Peter Smith noted in a Seminary paper in 1989 that the primary reason for starting new works was to stem the loss of members who were leaving the denomination. In California and Florida, new congregations were developed to provide a place of worship for migrating Covenanters who were moving and looking for jobs. In many places ministries were started for the convenience of the church members in contrast to the conversion of the lost.

The church, however, was not without a concern for the lost. There was a strong foreign missions emphasis and a corresponding home missions emphasis. The home missions emphasis tended to have a geographic or an ethnic focus: B. Geographic or Ethnic Ministry: Southern Mission- African-Americans Indian Mission- Native-Americans Kentucky Mission- Appalachia Jewish Mission (New York)- Jews Chinese Mission (L.A.)- Chinese

Oversight of these works was carried out by the Board of Home Missions.

In 1959, the work of Church Extension was added to the responsibility of this board. It was at this point that the Board requested each Presbytery to set up Committees on Church Extension.

1960s-1970s Church Extension
Efforts were made in Wichita, KS and Marion, IA to start churches to reach the lost. The prevailing method was to build a church building, and then to attract people to it.

In the 1960s Dr. Roy Blackwood began starting churches in central Indiana. His approach was one of building people first, who in turn would build their own church and their own ministry-centered program (Smith 1989, 16). Second Indianapolis West Lafayette Southside

In Syracuse, NY, Dr. Edward Robson led in the revitalization of the congregation there. Bible studies were later started in Rochester and Oswego, resulting in congregations being formed there. Oswego has since daughtered Fulton and New Hartford. One of Dr. Robson’s associates, Dr. Richard Ganz, moved to Ottawa, Canada and started a congregation which has since daughtered congregations in Smiths Falls, Bancroft, and Russell, and encouraged a work in Toronto. (More about that later!)

During the 1970’s and the 1980’s, a variety of efforts were made by different Presbyteries to start new works. There was no central philosophy of ministry or vision of how church planting should be done. The Home Mission Board became primarily a distributor of funds for the Synod. There was a continuing decline in membership in the denomination and in many Presbyteries the work of church planting was not given high priority. Columbus, IN Oswego, NY (Daughter of Syracuse) Ottawa, Canada (Satellite of Syracuse) Endwell, NY

In 1986 the Home Mission Board decided to engage Dr. Donald MacNair as a consultant to help the Board refocus its vision and plans for church planting. Dr. MacNair led the Board through a process which resulted in a purpose statement later approved by the Synod which states that the Home Mission Board’s mandate is: “To facilitate the establishment of new RPCNA congregations in North America by providing counsel, encouragement, resources and training (CERT) to its Presbyteries.”

In 1988, at the international conference at Carleton College, the new vision was introduced to the entire denomination. It was called the “Time to Plant” program and included a goal of seven new mission churches by 1994, a goal adopted by the Synod in 1989.

The Home Mission Board’s new mandate from Synod resulted in a much more aggressive approach to church planting by the Board and the Presbyteries in the last twelve years.
“7 More by 94” “8 More by 2000”
28 New Mission Churches since 1987
21 Mission Churches continuing

Goal for 1988-1994: Seven
Stillwater, OK July 1990
Pensacola, FL August 1990
Waldorf, MD August 1991
Kokomo, IN April 1992
Evansville, IN April 1993
Fulton, NY June 1994
Middletown, NY July 1994

Goal for 1995-2000: Eight
Hazleton, PA April 1995
Elkhart, IN July 1996
Wichita, KS January 1997
Orange, CA February 1997
Bancroft, Ontario April 1997
New Hartford, NY May 1997
Raleigh/Durham, NC July 1997
Pgh.-S. Hills, PA June 1998
Russell, Ontario June 1998
Toronto, Ontario Sept . 1998
Meadville, PA March 1999
Orlando, FL Nov. 1999

At the end of 1998, 12% of Total Membership, 11% of Communicant Membership, and 16% of Baptized membership was in churches less than 13 years old. (SHOW GRAPH)

Home Mission Board Funding
In addition, some major bequests were left to the Board which have helped provide significant funding for new works.
Average Investment by Home Mission Board $100,000
On average, the Home Mission Board investment in mission churches ranges between $84,000 to $120,000.

The Home Mission Board’s anticipated investment in new Mission Churches through the year 2006 is $2,400,000+.

There are a variety of models for church planting.

1. Parent/Daughter
In this model an individual or a group of people within a congregation begin to consider a new ministry in a nearby area under the oversight of the home or mother church. Bible studies may be started in the new area with the view to developing a core group for a new congregation. Other members in the mother church may also be asked to consider becoming part of the nucleus for a new church. Churches using this model include Syracuse planting Rochester which in turn plated Smith Falls; Syracuse that planted Oswego which planted Fulton; Syracuse which planted New Hartford; Ottawa which planted Bancroft and Russell; Second Indianapolis which planted Southside; Westminster which planted Colorado Springs; Trinity, MD which planted Anchor, MD; West Lafayette which planted Kokomo; Westminster, CO which planted Longmont.

2. Satellite
In the Satellite model, a church seeks to support a church planter and a new work that is some distance from the supporting church. The satellite church mayor may not have members from the supporting church.
Ottawa, Canada

3. Migration/Relocation
Sometimes new works have been started as the result of the migration or relocation of committed families. Upon relocation these families have desired to see a Reformed Presbyterian church begun in order to reach their new community with the Gospel.

This model has been the basis of new works in
Washington, D.C.;
Prairie Village, IL;
Stillwater, OK;
Midland, TX

4. Geographic Location
Sometimes an individual or a group has a vision and a burden for a particular location. While the Canadian churches have mainly used a parent/daughter model, pastor Kiernan Stringer had a special burden for Toronto and moved there to begin ministry, with the support of his presbytery and fellow pastors in Canada.
Toronto, Canada

5. Demographic Potential
Sometimes a congregation or a presbytery sees the potential development of ministry in a growing area near an existing congregation or in a developing area within the presbytery.

This model was used in starting works in
Wichita, KS and
Marion, IA.

The Alleghenies presbytery evaluated the Cranberry area outside of Pittsburgh several years ago.

6. “Accidental” Development
While God calls us to be intentional about the expansion of the church, sometimes He delights in surprising us by developing a church nobody else had in mind. This is the model we find in Acts 16. Paul was trying to preach in Asia, but the doors were closed. Then God gave Paul a vision for Macedonia. Paul went to the region, and then to Philippi, where he preached the gospel.

In the last 10 years, we have seen works develop unexpectedly in places like
Pensacola, FL;
Raleigh, NC;
Meadville, PA.

One writer has compared church planting to surfing. In surfing, you don’t make the waves, you ride the waves that are already there. Theologically, this is the doctrine of prevenience- the doctrine that God is already at work. Our task is not to try to get God to work where we are, but to find out where God is already at work, and get in step with Him.